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Obama’s #1 Priority Is Bipartisanship

2279253649_e571f2b7ec.thumbnail.jpgFor a long time progressive and conservatives alike have been reading the tea leaves trying to figure out what Obama’s priorities are.  Is he a hidden progressive or is he a conservative in sheep’s clothing, or does he mean what he says about being a post-partisan figure?

Chalk another one up for "believing people when they tell you who they are". Politico:

Obama strategists say he wants to get 80 or more votes in the 100-member Senate, and the emphasis on tax cuts is a way to defuse conservative criticism and enlist Republican support.

In order to get those 80 votes, Obama has pre-compromised his stimulus bill, which will define the first year of his administration more than anything else, loading it up with 310 billion of tax cuts, making up 40% of the total.  (I will also note that he and his team seem to have flunked negotiation 101, because you don’t pre-compromise if you know how to negotiate, you come out with the most liberal bill possible, even if that’s not what you want, so you can bargain towards the bill you want.  This bill will be watered down even further from it’s already pre-compromised state).

Of course Obama doesn’t need 80 votes.  He probably doesn’t even need 60, as a stimulus bill is a spending bill it could be done under reconciliation, in which case you could get it through with 51 votes.  But even at 60, that would mean Obama would need to get all of 2 Republicans to vote with him, not 22.  He’s sitting at over 70% approval ratings, with as much political capital as he’ll probably ever have during his presidency and he’s compromising already?

What that should tell you is that what matters to Barack Obama most is not effective policy, it is not ends, it is consensus.  Obama wants everyone to play nice together and wants everyone onside, and if that means he has to give away the farm, he will do so, because to him putting through an effective stimulus bill is less important than keeping Republicans happy and being able to say that his bill had "broad bipartisan support".

None of that will matter when the stimulus bill doesn’t actually work well enough to kick the US out of its economic doldrums, mind you.  That’s what Obama is forgetting, it’s not whether you pass policies in a bipartisan fashion that matters, it’s whether those policies work.  The key Bush initiaties had plenty of bipartisan support, the Republicans got their butts kicked anyway because Bush’s policies didn’t work.

Obama told everyone this is who he was, that he agreed with Reagan’s critique of liberalism, and that the most important thing to him was making sure everyone worked together nicely in Washington.  He meant it.  Guess primary voters should have listened to what he said, not how well he said it.

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Ian Welsh

Ian Welsh

Ian Welsh was the Managing Editor of FireDogLake and the Agonist. His work has also appeared at Huffington Post, Alternet, and Truthout, as well as the now defunct Blogging of the President (BOPNews). In Canada his work has appeared in and BlogsCanada. He is also a social media strategy consultant and currently lives in Toronto.

His homeblog is at